Here the record ends, amid the gloom and desolation of defeat — a gloom that was to be followed ere long by the still blacker darkness of Reconstruction.
Yet, I would not have the reader draw from its pages a message of despair, but of hope and courage under difficulties; for disaster cheerfully borne and honorably overcome, is not a tragedy, but a triumph.
And this, the most glorious of all conquests, belongs to the South
Never in all history, has any people recovered itself so completely from calamity so overwhelming.
By the abolition of slavery alone four thousand millions worth of property were wiped out of existence.
As many millions more went up in the smoke and ruin of war; while to count in money the cost of the precious lives that were sacrificed, would be, I will not say an impossibility, but a desecration.
I do not recall these things in a spirit of bitterness or repining, but with a feeling of just pride that I belong to a race which has shown itself capable of rising superior to such conditions.
We, on this side of the line, have long since forgiven the war and its inevitable hardships.
We challenged the fight, and if we got more of it in the end than we liked, there was nothing for it but to stand up like men and take our
medicine without whimpering.
It was the hand that struck us after we were down that bore hardest; yet even its iron weight was not enough to break the spirit of a people in whom the Anglo-Saxon
blood of our fathers still flows uncontaminated; and when the insatiable crew of the carpet-baggers fell upon us to devour the last meager remnants left us by the spoliation of war, they were met by the ghostly bands of “The Invisible Empire,” who through secret vigilance and masterful strategy saved the civilization they were forbidden to defend by open force.
To conquer fate is a greater victory than to conquer in battle, and to conquer under such handicaps as were imposed on the South
is more than a victory; it is a triumph.
Forced against our will, and against the simplest biological and ethnological laws, into an unnatural political marriage that has brought forth as its monstrous offspring a race problem in comparison with which the Cretan Minotaur
was a suckling calf; robbed of the last pitiful resource the destitution of war had left us, by a prohibitory tax on cotton, our sole commercial product; discriminated against for half a century by a predatory tariff that mulcts us at every turn, from the cradle to the grave; giving millions out of our poverty to educate the negro, and contributing millions more to reward the patriotism of our conquerors, whose imperishable multitudes as revealed by the pension rolls, make the four-year resistance of our thin gray bands one of the miracles of history; yet, in spite
of all this, and in spite of the fact that the path of our progress has been a thorny one, marked by many an unwritten tragedy of those who went down in the struggle, too old, or too deeply rooted in the past to adapt themselves to new conditions, we have, as a people, come up out of the depths stronger and wiser for our battle with adversity, and the land we love has lifted herself from the Valley of Humiliation
to a pinnacle of prosperity that is the wonder of more favored sections.
And so, after all, our tale of disaster is but the prelude to a triumph in which one may justly glory without being accused of vainglory.
It is good to feel that you belong to a people that you have a right to be proud of; it is good to feel coursing in your veins the blood of a race that has left its impress on the civilization of the world wherever the Anglo-Saxon
has set his foot.
And to us, who bore the storm and stress and the tragedy of those dark days, it is good to remember that if the sun which set in blood and ashes over the hills of Appomattox
has risen again in splendor on the smiling prospect of a New South, it is because the foundations of its success were laid in the courage and steadfastness and hopefulness of a generation who in the darkest days of disaster, did not despair of their country.